November 17th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member and printed with permission from the Renville County Register

Our fall and winter hunters, hikers, and fishermen are exposed to lower temperatures than during early fall. It is time to start thinking about your safety as you deal with colder temperatures.

If we were in a mountainous area, we would have to be aware of cool/cold temperatures all year around, but usually have few worries here in the warm months. In fact someone dies of hypothermia almost every year in our mountain states due to cooler, dryer or windy conditions during summer. All these folks were doing was hiking a mountain trail, broke out in a sweat from exertion, and their body chilled to a dangerously low core temperature. This is very easy to have happen if you aren’t aware, while in the high country of our mountain states. Yes, even in the Black Hills one has to be aware of such things, even in warm seasons.

October begins our cooling and we have warm and cool or cold periods mixed in. Camping in late October has rewarded us with a blizzard that collapsed our tent and filled it with snow. Anything can happen from now on.

November, with deer season drawing thousands of hunters, both experienced and beginners into the woods throughout Minnesota means that many people will be exposed to conditions that bring on hypothermia.

Exertion and exhaustion while wearing heavy clothing can really mess you up. This can make one sweat, and as we said before, sweat in the clothing can draw heat out of your body way too fast for some folks. Just imagine what rain can add to this problem if improperly equipped out there in the woods. Yes, there is danger in southern Minnesota also.

So, my friends, as you work hard at hunting or other activity, your body has to regulate your core temperature. You will probably sweat. This uses up your energy reserves.

We must prevent hypothermia or be at risk. Never let your energy level go low. Eating a lot of high-energy food or candy while hunting is a pretty good idea. The danger is there if you start to shiver. This is a warning sign. As your core temperature lowers, your brain will start to function poorly. This can lead to bad decisions out there in the boondocks.

Prevent hypothermia at all costs, including wearing the proper “breathable” under clothes that draw moisture away from your body and let it out. If you get cold hands and feet, protect them as there will be a loss of heat from them. Also, the head is a radiator of heat from your body. Protect that heat there. Avoid getting wet. If rain threatens, carry a rain jacket.

Be aware of wind and how it affects you. Wind can draw heat from exposed skin very easily. It can also evaporate sweat from your body and under clothes. This can chill you down very quickly. You might want to check out some of the new breathable underwear, socks and jackets for use this fall.

Most deer hunters are used to the 30-50 degree temperatures at deer season time. “That’s not cold”, you say. Right; and it is when many outdoors people suffer hypothermia at that time. We just don’t think it is cold enough to be a problem. It can be.

Plan for wind. Plan for rain. Plan to keep fueling your internal furnace all day long. Dress in layers of clothes that breathe when you work hard, like walking with a rifle or shotgun out to your deer stand in the woods. You can open jackets to keep from sweating as you walk, and close up when sitting on that stump.

Reminder: If you shiver, your core temperature is starting to drop. That is your warning signal. Shivering can become so serious that you can’t control your hands and will not be able to save yourself if alone in the woods. You can’t build a fire or shelter if you are in hypothermic state. Hunting with someone else allows you each to keep an eye on the other to watch for signs of hypothermia.

If someone in your party gets hypothermia, you must act quickly. Get them out of the wind. Get them out of wet clothes. Get them dressed in warm wool or fleece clothing. A sleeping bag can save a life out there if you can get the victim back to camp. If the victim is alert and doing fairly well, and you don’t fear choking, feed them some hot chocolate to give them warmth and energy.

Keep the victim awake and active. If you must, get naked and strip the victim of clothing and both get into the sleeping bag. Body heat can be transferred quickly into the victim that way. This may not be pleasant in deer camp if no one has had a bath for a few days, but saving a life makes that a trivial thing.

Preparation helps to prevent disasters in the woods.


Sven hopes you have all sighted in your firearms of choice and will have a successful fall hunt, whether for pheasant, duck, deer or other small game. Point your muzzle in a safe direction all the time. Treat all guns as if loaded. Be sure of your target and beyond it. Keep the finger off the trigger until actually shooting. Carry survival gear and extra energy food when out in the boondocks. Best of luck to you all.

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